Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Behind the Time(s)

Warning, if you are one of my regular guy readers, you may want to sit this one out. Proceed at your own risk.
Well, it is a hot Tuesday. (this is the opposite of all my winter posts-"this is a frigid_____")
And my kids are dropping like flies. Not cool. Not cool at all. LC and Freckles are both in the throws of what Meres has. LC started complaining of a headache this morning, right before VBS started. She ended up sitting VBS out. About 1/4 of the way into VBS, Freckles went really pale under all those freckles. I instantly saw that he wasn't feeling good. But, the proof is in the pudding, or in the laying down on the couch. My kids are only still when they don't feel well. Anyway, I feel this is definitely opposition. Satan doesn't want me doing this work, or teaching these precious souls God's truth. I feel torn...between my responsibilities as a mother, and to this commitment. Thankfully, the girls are doing the majority of the teaching from this point forward, and I am just observing.
Parenting is hard, you know?! All these situations. It is certainly not for the faint of heart. Wisdom, grace, and enabling are needed each and every day.
One of the parenting situations that has been getting a lot of press time lately is breastfeeding. First was the TIME cover portraying a mother nursing her 3 or 4 year old, with the caption, "Are you mom enough?" It has been blogged about and talked about and discussed. From every angle and stance that anyone could possibly take.
All the extremes have been voiced, but I feel that moderation is somewhat lacking.
A woman is not a failure if she chooses not to nurse her child, or if she can't nurse her child.
It is no one else's business if you nurse or not, nor for how long you nurse.
In one of the posts I read, a woman shared her heart about how she tried to nurse both her boys, and ended up throwing in the towel. She reached a lot of empathetic readers. I can sympathize where she, and everyone who commented, was coming from. But, I felt like the I was the lone voice saying, "I'm sorry, but it worked for me." Like I was wrong because I had persisted, and had relatively few difficulties. Dammed because I did.
Everyone is pushing nursing right now-from Hooter Hiders to the hospitals to the government. Last year, here in my hometown, there were all kinds of government sponsored billboards about the benefits of nursing. Weight loss, bonding, economics, etc. Personally, I have a hard time being for something that the government is promoting. Its just my libertarian heart peeking out.
On top of that, we live in such a "let everything hang out" culture. We put things on Face book and Twitter, that really should be private. One hundred years ago, it wasn't even considered polite to comment on someone's pregnant state. Now, sonogram photos are all over the web. And, in our information age we open ourselves up for comment by asking for advice on Twitter or FB from everything from bottle brands to bedding to birth options. People always give advice. Asked or not.
Yet, even in our information glut, in my experience I find that moms are woefully unprepared for motherhood. We are in to reading blogs, and books and we think, "I can do that."
I have nursed all four of my big babies (the first three at 9 lb. 2 oz, and Meres at 10 lb. 4 oz). I have nursed some for longer and some for shorter. (Meres is still not giving this up) I would say that BMV and Meres were the two hardest-my first and my last. With BMV, we were both newbies. With Meres-well, she sucked like a barnacle. With BMV I read all the books. I read that you don't feed on demand, but on a schedule. If it hurts, you are doing something wrong. And, no one, NO ONE, mentioned the uterine contractions that you experience while nursing those first couple days. That knife sharp pain took my breath away. I would say that it was almost as bad as labor, and totally unexpected. And, I was also unprepared for the length of time nursing a newborn takes. If you are going by the 3 hour rule-is it three hours from start to start, or from finish to start? Because, let me tell you, I feel like I am nursing newborns 1-1/2 hours out of every three hours. All day.
What advice would I give brand new moms?
Nursing takes time. A lot of time. And, even though your baby is sucking forever, you have no idea of how much they are getting. Is it enough? By using bottles you can gauge what they are eating.
Nursing hurts. In the words of my midwife-after the fact-"of course it hurts! They are sucking on your tender nipples for hours. Its going to take some time for them to toughen up." As for the uterine contractions, take your painkiller of choice for a day or two. No one is going to think less of you. There is no merit in enduring pain when you really don't have to. It won't harm your baby.
I have never had mastitis, though I have had a plugged duct or two. I hear mastitis is awful. I am sorry for each of you sisters who have had to endure that.
Nursing is a private choice. But people still feel compelled to give advice. Be gracious, or not. But make your own decision based on the wisdom and common sense God gives you.
Nursing gets better. If you choose to keep going, there is a turning point at about 6 weeks. Your baby is less dependent. Things level out. It takes less time. It is worth persisting, if you can.
Nursing is a wonderful experience. Being belly to belly with my baby. Seeing their blueberry eyes peering up at me. It's amazing.
Nursing is tiring. Loving on that baby in the middle of the night, when you just.want.to.sleep. Wishing it was someone else's responsibility to feed this child. Having to wear two piece outfits forever. But, still it is oh so precious. And lasts for a relatively short stage.
Nursing is natural. That doesn't mean it is easy or pain free. Childbirth is "natural" too. But, it was also the four most painful experiences I have ever been through. Ironically, when I was running the 25k, I kept thinking, "I birthed 4 children, I can do this." When birthing Meres I kept thinking, "I ran a half marathon, I can do this."
In this whole debate, we have lost sight of the history of nursing and formula. Nursing was the default feeding mode from time immemorial. Scientists began developing infant formulas as early as the mid 1800s. But, the majority of babies were still breast fed at the turn of the 20th century. Similac ("similar to lactation") was developed in the early 1900s, with other brands following over the next 50 years. By the early 1970s you see a complete reversal of infant feeding methods. In the early 1970s, 75% of babies were fed formula. I remember when my mom nursed my sister in 1989, she was considered odd. Only Hippies nursed their kids. Or right-wing weirdo home schoolers. In our day, nursing has come full circle again. People are seeing the benefits-nutritionally and otherwise. It has become a motherhood measure. A status symbol even.
What's my point? Forewarned is forearmed. It isn't as easy as it looks. But, for the most part, it isn't impossible either.
Moderation is the key. Let's not hold so tightly to our stances that we are unable not to judge our sisters. For or against, let's dispense grace in humility. Our goal as Christians is to build each other up, not tear down-whatever the issue.
Because, one thing I've learned in my short 10 years of parenting, is that when you think you've got it all figured out, you get thrown a for a loop. What worked for one child, or three, may not work for number four. Ask me about Meres.
She's determined to break the Barefoot Hippie mold. I think she gets that tendency from her mama.
The "breaking the mold" tendency. Sigh.=)